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Travel these days has become increasingly easy and fast. You can hop on a plane to virtually any destination in the world. With a wide variety of airplanes, daily flights, and bargain deals, travelers can often find travel deals to destinations once considered remote and only accessible to the very hardy adventurous traveler or the privileged elite. In fact, with the bargain deals offered by different airlines, many of which overbook their flights, travelers scouring for cheap deals, will often discover that it is cheaper to fly to another country than visit their own. With such bargain deals, it is no wonder that the tourist industry is booming in every sector. What does this increased travel worldwide signify for cultural exchange, assimilation, and national identities? This question remains to be answered.
For many, travel opens up unexpected vistas, broadens the mind, tests one’s endurance, and expands compassion and awareness of other people and their lifestyles. Countries that are well known for being popular travel destinations, thrive on this expanded tourist industry, boasting new hotels, resorts, outdoor pursuits, theater, nightlife, and arts and entertainment, all aimed at increasing and maintaining their status quo as top travel destinations. A plethora of travel magazines have sprung up to support this industry, ranging from beach and resort guides, to targeted audiences such as family vacations, hunting or sport vacations, adventure destinations, religious and spiritual retreats, health and wellness spas, business traveler and corporate meeting destinations, and much more. Ads for numerous sight-seeing tours and travel packages offering deals on transportation and accommodations, fill all the back pages of these books. Traveling the ‘world in 80 days’ as suggested by writer Jules Verne, is no longer a distant dream, but a viable option these days.
Smaller, more remote destinations such as the mountain kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas, once the destination of only locals and royal families, have now become more accessible to the general public. This and places such as the steppes of Mongolia and the islands of Vancouver, British Columbia, are areas of exquisite beauty, pristinely left intact by local inhabitants and low human impact. As these areas open up, heavily marketed and advertised by the eco-tourism industry, promoting health, wellness, and travel adventures to ‘pristine, untouched areas’, they become in danger of losing these qualities of pristine beauty and remoteness very rapidly. Large real-estate developers looking to buy land in scenic destinations, have lobbied for the open expansion of these areas, which environmentalists and locals fear greatly will result in depleting the area of its resources very rapidly as well as destroying natural habitat that has existed peacefully for thousands of years.
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